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KDOT: State bridges are safe

State and local leaders say the more than 25,000 bridges found in Kansas are safe.
/ Source: KSNW-TV

State and local leaders say the more than 25,000 bridges found in Kansas are safe.

WICHITA, Kansas, Aug. 2, 2007 – The bridge collapse in Minneapolis is a devastating scenario that is making local and state governments take notice.

"Just to collapse like that was very surprising," Bryan Hamel, KDOT, said.

The Minneapolis bridge was deemed "structurally deficient" at its last inspection, but was still believed to be safe to drive on.

Here in Kansas, of our 25,827 bridges, 21 percent are labeled to have some kind of flaw. Some of the flaws are considered cosmetic, but others are labeled, as the bridge in Minneapolis, structurally deficient, meaning there are signs of fatigue. However, that's not a declaration that the bridge is unsafe. It just means that it needs to be watched.

"That's about the time when we need to start checking it yearly to make sure that it's not getting any worse," Hamel said. "If it does, we will do progressive maintenance to make sure that it is still structurally sound."

In fact, Kansas inspects most of its bridges once every two years, and once a year for those more heavily traveled. During the inspection, the state looks at everything from the guardrails to the base of the bridge, and from the underside of the bridge to the pillars that support it. Inspectors look for anything on the bridge that may show a sign of fatigue.

It is a similar procedure used for Wichita's more than 250 bridges. In fact, right now the city is in the middle of its bridge inspection and says while they may have some that are deemed structurally deficient, all city bridges are safe.

"If we ever get to the point where we have one of our bridges that is unsafe, we will close it," Chris Carrier, Wichita city engineer, said.

While Kansas officials are busy reassuring us our bridges are safe to drive on, crews in Minneapolis will be looking to find a cause for the collapse.